Friday, November 28, 2014

Poetry Friday with a review of What the Heart Knows

Using words to connect with our world is something we humans do all the time. Sometimes these words are directed at people or animals, and sometimes they are sent out into the universe with the hope that someone or something can hear what we are saying. In today's poetry title you will encounter some poems that will resonate with anyone who has, among other things, asked for courage, who has lost something, who has lost someone, and who has felt regretful.

What the heart knows: Chants, Charms and BlessingsWhat the heart knows: Chants, Charms and Blessings
Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Poetry
For ages 12 and up
Houghton Mifflin, 2013, 978-0-544-10616-1
We humans have been using words “to try to influence the world around us” for centuries. We have offered up prayers and chants to ask for kinder weather, to secure safe passage on journeys, and to be victorious in battle. We have sung songs to get the attention of our one true love, and to bless our sleepy children before they slumber.
   We now know that songs and chants cannot save us from tornadoes, make our crops grow and protect us from the newest wave of the flu, and yet we still write down words that are essentially chants, charms or blessings, some of which are offered up in prayer or song. The creation of these offerings helps us to celebrate, to grieve and to process our anger. They allow us to communicate our feelings to the universe, and to even gain an understanding about ourselves in the process.
   In this remarkable book Joyce Sidman offers us poems that will give readers much to think about. She begins with Chants and Charms: to bolster courage and guard against evil. Here readers will find a chant to help repair a friendship, one in which the writer asks the reader to “forgive the past” and to give love, which “is vast,” a chance. The form of the chant is beautifully lyrical.
   For those days when courage is in small supply or when doubt fills the heart there is Song of Bravery, a poem that will help anyone facing a day that is full of grey clouds and possible pitfalls. Here readers will find the words of one who is unsure and perhaps even afraid, and yet who is going to step “into the glare of the arena / to face the lions.”
   Occasionally we wish we could, with our words, “cause something to happen.” This is when the Spells and Invocations section in this book will come in handy, and Joyce Sidman gives us several poems that will surely be useful. The first in particular will come in handy almost every day as it is an Invitation to Lost Things. Here at last are the words we need to call out to those objects that are always going missing; those cell phones that seem to grow feet and walk away, and those pairs of things – such as earring and socks – that are constantly losing their mate. In her poem Joyce Sidman’s words are gentle and placating as she asks these wayward things to come back because without them “we are lost / in this big world of ours.”
   Following the spells we come to the Laments and Remembrances. Here we find poems that remember things, that regret those things that are no more, and that grieve for those who have left us. These poems are followed, very aptly, by Praise, Songs and Blessings, which are poems that “celebrate, thank, or express love.”
   This is a remarkable book full of poems that are rich with beauty and wisdom, and readers will want to read than again and again.
  

   

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